A SEP (solar electric propulsion) deep space rendezvous for mars mission concept based on the MET (microwave electro-thermal) thruster

Author(s): J.E.Brandenburg

A human mission to Mars concept based around Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) and theMET (microwave Electro-Thermal) thruster with water propellant is proposed and analyzed. This architecture utilizes water propellant transfer between spacecraft to increase payload delivered to Mars where the architecture is compared to a purely chemical baseline using the Saturn V booster from the Apollo missions. It is discovered that despite the advantage of the Oberth Effect early in the mission to lower DV for MTI (Mars transfer orbit injection) the requirement of storable chemical propellants for MOI (Mars Orbit Insertion) with lower Isp greatly reduces the amount of useful payload delivered into Mars orbit. In contrast the use of the MET SEP, with much higher Isp than chemical propellant, as a high energy upper stage on the Saturn V together with using the demonstrated transferability of water between spacecraft, allows a transfer of water propellant from a tanker after a DSR (Deep Space Rendezvous) before MTI and possesses a 3.1 times increase of useful payload delivered to Mars orbit.

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